Hubert Humphrey


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(b. Wallace, South Dakota, 27 May 1911; d. Waverly, Minnesota, 13 Jan. 1978)

US; Vice-President 1964–8 Humphrey qualified from the University of Minnesota in pharmacy and political science and practised both. He became an organizer for the Democratic Farmer-Labour Party in the state in 1944 and was elected mayor for Minneapolis in 1945, holding the position until 1949. Always on the party's liberal wing he helped found the Americans for Democratic Action in 1947. At the 1948 Democratic Convention he spoke out for a strong civil rights platform; the adoption of the platform drove some Southern delegates to withdraw and form their own party. Between 1949 and 1965 he represented Minnesota in the Senate. He made a failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1960; he lacked the resources to compete with John Kennedy in the primaries and did not have the support of senior party figures. Between 1961 and 1965 he was Senate majority whip and played an important role in the passage of key legislation on civil rights as well as the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. At the 1964 Democratic convention, President Lyndon Johnson appeared at the convention rostrum and nominated Humphrey as the party's vice-presidential candidate. Humphrey was loyal to Johnson and, fatally for him, defended America's military involvement in Vietnam. This lost him much liberal party support and the anti-war candidates did well in the Democratic primaries in 1968, which Humphrey avoided. At the party convention in 1968, the party delegates nominated Humphrey on the first ballot. This caused outrage among critics of the war who felt that the nomination had been ‘stolen’ from them. It was ironic that Humphrey, who had tried to challenge the party establishment in 1960, now relied on it. Because of the party divisions Humphrey was given little chance of winning the election, but he made up much ground on the Republican Richard Nixon in the last few days of the campaign, only losing by 43.4 per cent to 42.7 per cent of the popular vote. He returned to the Senate in 1971 and served until his death. He made one last effort for the presidential nomination in 1972, but his time was past. Humphrey was in many respects an old-fashioned liberal Democrat, remaining true to New Deal values, a believer in the beneficence of government action.

Subjects: Politics — History.

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